Journalist Andy Murray caught up with the cast of Great Expectations to share their thoughts about this bold new production.
Tanika Gupta’s adaptation of GREAT EXPECTATIONS is bold in its approach, but it leaves the essence of Dickens’ original novel intact, not least the key relationship between Miss Havisham (played by Catherine Russell) and Pip (here renamed ‘Pipli’, and played by Esh Alladi).
During rehearsals, Catherine and Esh shared their thoughts with Andy Murray about being involved in this new Royal Exchange production.
As a Dickens fan then, how faithful is this adaptation? Audience members may come with certain expectations…
Catherine: Great expectations of seeing GREAT EXPECTATIONS? But they will see GREAT EXPECTATIONS. I mean, they really will. It’s interesting how close to the original Tanika’s managed to be, in transposing it. It’s got colonialism and the Raj era and that setting. I suppose what the Dickens had is a sort of classism, if you like, and the snobbery around where people are coming from and where they’re going. We have that, but we also have imperialism on top of it as well.
So people will see GREAT EXPECTATIONS, but with a very interesting twist that I don’t think is crowbarred in. You sometimes get that with things, don’t you? But I don’t think that’s the case here.
Esh: What Tanika does so beautifully is retain the heart and the soul of a piece. She does it with her other adaptations as well. But she manages to cast, through her historical and political lens, a whole new light on the story, and it has such relevance and importance to today.
I mean, just look around at our political leaders. Look at the rhetoric that, for example, Priti Patel and Suella Braverman have brought out regarding immigrants and migrant populations. You think, what got lost on the way here? How have you lost your empathy towards these populations?
Esh: And it really is resonant to Pipli’s journey in this, because he’s so desperate to make something of his life, because he’s so uncomfortable and dissatisfied where he is. He doesn’t realise what he has, the importance of his cultural identity and what’s been taken from him through colonialism.
It’s a really complex play. I mean, it’s a complex enough book as it is, but Tanika has somehow managed to find even more depth in it, and made it even more nuanced and interesting.
Read more about Catherine and Esh’s thoughts, as well as an interview between Directors Gitika Buttoo and Pooja Ghai in the GREAT EXPECTATIONS programme.
Available to purchase online for collection at the Theatre when you come to see the show.